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From what I understand, and I could be wrong, the government disseminates information that people consume. The government also tells us what is and is not true.

Now I am wondering, suppose theoretically that a committee of scientists knows every "Universal Truth". Then would the set of all propositions representing misinformation simply be a negation of this set of "Universal Truths"?

Generally, given that the flow of information in a society is often controlled, is publicly acknowledged misinformation or pseudoscience objective based on a non-biased standard? Could there be such a standard? Or is misinformation subjective?

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  • Are you starting from the assumption that all truths you are interested in for this domain of discourse are objective truths, and the only misinformation you are interested in is the negation of those objective truth? If so, I do believe you write your own answer.
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 2, 2022 at 3:18
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    Any kind of information (and therefore of misinformation) is subjective. Building a new bridge can be positive for some, and it can be negative for those who will be relocated. There are no universal truths. Truth is not about majority or logic. You can bet that there are some people on earth that truly believe the sun is green. Poison is good for the murderer, bad for the murdered, etc. Also, notice you are in a victimist position: the government does not tell "what is and what is not true".
    – RodolfoAP
    Aug 2, 2022 at 3:55
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    What you are missing is the relativity of truth. There's no absolute truth. Therefore, the government does not tell "the truth". Any statement can be understood as truth or falsehood. Yes, they state subjective assertions, as any other.
    – RodolfoAP
    Aug 2, 2022 at 4:05
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    If I understand you correctly, perception is involved in truth and therefore it is relative. Then, is it true that that which is, is true?
    – hbhutta
    Aug 2, 2022 at 4:09
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    Your question contains a misconception that "truth" would be defined as what certain people declare it is. That's not what truth is. Truth is the territory, and what people say about it consists of various maps. A map is true only to the extent it matches the territory, not to the extent it matches other maps.
    – causative
    Aug 2, 2022 at 4:34

2 Answers 2

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Both. Misinformation is usually not just information that is incorrect, but it's "mis(leading) information", so it's the explicit or implicit accusation of deception.

A prime example for the difference is news media and science. Like if you are the first to cover an event, describe what's happening, what information are available to you and what is likely the cause, effect and consequences of something. Then there's a good chance that you'll end up being wrong. Things might be different than you initially thought they were and so the first draft of the report might end up being incorrect or "in need of correction(s)".

On the other hand there's value in getting information quick. Like it's often better to raise the alarm when you see dark smoke and be glad if it's just a BBQ, then to confirm it to the limits of reasonable doubt and have a school been burned down with all the children inside.

So that's not "misinformation" despite being wrong, that's the problem of "delivering information to the best of your knowledge" in combination with "not enough knowledge/information". You can mitigate that at least on your part by making people aware of your fact base and moderating your level of confidence accordingly. So instead of arguing that "it is" you say that "it could be". Then you're not proclaiming an absolute truth (which you couldn't really do in good faith anyway), but would characterize it as an assumption with a margin of error (which you'd name explicitly). So in that case you'd somewhat rid yourself of the problem of "being wrong", but you'd also lose the aura of "being correct" as well. It is what it is and time will tell what it's worth.

What would be misinformation is if you knew prior to the report that what you're about to say is obsolete, wrong, easy to be misinterpreted or even intentionally framed information. Then it's not just being wrong, the very purpose of it is to broadcast wrong information and to encourage/disencourage behavior or confidence in behavior that is/are not warranted by the facts.

And here it gets tricky because while it's not impossible to proof misinformation objectively. Like idk you can have video footage of Donald Trump proudly claiming the things that he only shortly after that claims never to have heard of. Or idk the CIA having reports prior to the claim of WMDs that state there's no intel on the existence of WMDs. So you can have high confidence that these people or institutions were lying and spreading misinformation at the time. However at the same time, it's also a subjective actions, like "misinformation" is not wrong information it's the intent to spread wrong information. So you can always argue that it's not a bad faith action but just being ignorant of the facts, bad at one's job, forgetful, just not very bright and whatever other reason would come to mind why you couldn't have known what you already know at the time.

So it's rather difficult to prove, to the last consequence, that someone is spreading deliberate misinformation.

That being said you can also look at the effect of information and see whether it IS misinforming people. So even without the malicious intent you can see the damage. So you can also act upon that and reevaluate the factfulness, show alternatives, expose framing and biases or downright mark it as false if there's sufficient evidence for that. And that can be done with a little more objectivity.

Like it's worth noting that absolute truths and perfect objectivity are likely unattainable, but that doesn't mean that you can't see obvious bullshit for what it is. I mean as said it's not just about being wrong, unjustified confidence given the facts can already count as misinformation.

Also the government usually neither controls nor spreads information. There are many channels of communication and distribution, from peer-to-peer discussions to broadcasting and usually the government is the topic of broadcasting not the source.

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  • The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 2, 2022 at 10:24
  • On your last statement, that "the government is the topic of broadcasting and not the source" can you give some examples? Also, my questions was more so related to why we even have such notions in our society as science and pseudoscience, if truth is relative? And if truth is relative, as @RodolfoAP said, then why have we established enterprises of knowledge and information on these relative truths? Then these establishments seem quite fragile don't they? If truth is relative then why do people fight wars to determine what is and what is not true? Am confused.
    – hbhutta
    Aug 2, 2022 at 18:56
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    Unless it's state tv or PSAs or whatnot it's usually the press or other independent institutions that provide the news. You might want to check out Asimov's the relativity of wrong: hermiene.net/essays-trans/relativity_of_wrong.html . Just because you're not claiming "the truth" doesn't mean there's not a whole spectrum of how wrong you can be about an issue and that not all levels of wrong are equal. Relativity does not mean equally bullshit.
    – haxor789
    Aug 2, 2022 at 22:27
  • ""mis(leading) information", so it's the explicit or implicit accusation of deception." There's a difference between misinformation and disinformation.
    – J D
    Jul 5, 2023 at 21:52
  • Disinformation is bad information crafted to deceive, as opposed to misinformation which is not. Platonic forms needn't have any bearing on the discussion at all.
    – J D
    Jul 6, 2023 at 13:49
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Misinformation is subjective in the wake of our own humanity. The following is not common within media and politics: but in psychology there are several methods used to mitigate bias when testing an idea or the actual existence of a human perspective. They use 60 or more people with various habits and age for testing to rule out bias as much as possible

It is not true, what the post modernists among others say, that there are no absolute truth; there are. But for a human to interpret something as 'truth' he or she needs to process it using their senses and those are, as psychology has correctly understood, not entirely to be trusted.

This sadly rules out AI as a solution because of the simple reason that we, the human interpreters, still need to process what they say. Watch human grandmasters react to the moves of the strongest chess engine in the world Stockfish for reference. Short analysis of that: They think Stockfish is 'weird'

The heavily politicized term 'misinformation' is an attempt by the powers of the world to handle the bias through social policy. The most correct response to misinformation would be to sit down and find out who everybody are in person first before respectfully interpret their analysis of the world. But that approach would sadly be to slow and to late for the harsh world of politics were, quite frankly, people almost tear the hair out of their opponents sometimes

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